Laurel L. Russwurm

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

Posts Tagged ‘EFF

Smashwords Censorship: Unintended Consequences

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Smashwords distributes eBooks created by self publishing authors to the various proprietary eBook platforms.

Recently PayPal has told Smashwords that it must:

“..remove fiction that contains themes of bestiality, rape and incest”

Smashwords Member Alert – March 5, 2012

Is censorship ever advisable?

Ratings systems have long proved an effective method for preventing people from stumbling on material that they would find offensive. I grew up in a small rural community with a very strong religious presence. Still, our local video store had a back room where those so inclined could access material that might otherwise offend. There were also adult magazines nestled on the top shelves at the back of magazine racks in local variety stores. I know that because I clerked in such a store in high school, and I remember my profound shock the first time an Old Order Mennonite man arrived at the store in a horse drawn buggy and proceeded to purchase the latest issue of “Hustler.” But although I am quite sure that the elders of his church would not have been pleased, in a free society, adults must be accorded the right to choose for themselves.

Else we’ll certainly end up in a world very much like the one George Orwell tried to warn us against.

thumbnail ebook cover

Although not classed as erotica, my own debut novel, Inconstant Moon, actually deals pretty prominently with the crime of rape.  If I hadn’t already taken it off Smashwords myself (because I will not deal with PayPal) it could very easily have been one of the titles censored.

TechDirt considers that Paypal is just following orders Paypal Pressured To Play Morality Cop And Forces Smashwords To Censor Authors, while the Electronic Frontier Foundation is planning a legal challenge.

But in an email to Smashwords authors, founder Mark Corker indicates he is negotiating with PayPal, and although

“Many Smashwords authors have suggested we find a different payment processor. That’s not a good long term solution, because if credit card companies are behind this, they’ll eventually force crackdowns elsewhere. PayPal works well for us. In addition to running all credit card processing at the Smashwords.com store, PayPal is how we pay all our authors outside the U.S. My conversations with PayPal are ongoing and have been productive, yet I have no illusion that the road ahead will be simple, or that the outcome will be favorable.”

— Mark Corker,  Smashwords Author/Publisher Update – March 2, 2012

So  readers and writers have been duly warned that Smashwords will cave to PayPal demands rather than switch payment providers should negotiations fail.   That’s a business decision, and Smashwords can legally make it, but make no mistake: PayPal will not be the entity censoring eBooks, that task will fall to Smashwords.

Unintended Consequences

Copyright "c"

Smashwords is an internet company operating in the United States, and as such is subject to the DMCA.

Under the DMCA, You Tube is not liable for copyright infringing material that users upload, because YouTube doesn’t create the videos, it simply distributes them online. So much material is uploaded to YouTube, the cost of YouTube having to police the content of its users would instantly put YouTube out of business. Thus the DMCA allows Internet companies like YouTube an exemption from responsibility for the content they distribute, because these companies can’t reasonably assess such content for legal infractions.

The DMCA defines such a distributor as a “safe haven” so long as it complies with the DMCA.   So YouTube only takes down material when it receives a specific DMCA take down notice.

Smashwords relies on its automated processes to do what it does, and so far, no human has had to go through and vet every submission. But by accepting this PayPal censorship directive, Smashwords would assume responsibility for the content of the books it distributes.

Seems to me, the unintended consequence of a Smashwords decision to censor the books it distributes would remove the “safe haven status” Smashwords enjoys under the DMCA. Which would mean that Smashwords will have no choice but to police every title it distributes, or else be legally liable for any alleged copyright infringements.

no cyber-censorship, please

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Today on Identi.ca I said:

When I was young, freedom wasn’t such a big issue.
Life experience has shown me how really important freedom is.

That is so true. Freedom is important to me on many levels: as a citizen, as a parent, and as a writer.
But the Internet is ultimately a series of tools:   hardware and software strung together. The problem is,
of course, that tools can generally be used for good or ill. Which is why we must all strive to ensure it stays free. That means all of us, not just programmers but all of the users.

World day against cyber-censorship

Reporters without Borders are very concerned with freedom. Naturally. It’s hard to do a good job of reporting without freedom, which is why Reporters without Borders is holding the 3rd annual:

World day against cyber-censorship

Visit the Reporters without Borders World day against cyber-censorship webpage.   The site has been mirrored to allow netizens in blacked out countries to access this information at http://12march2011.org/en/

The site has goodies such as a map showing global geographic boundaries incidence of cyber censorship and the pièce de résistance the 2011 The Enemies of the Internet list.

I have to admit I was more than a little surprised to find the United States absent after all their efforts to take out WikiLeaks. The fact that the United States is not on the list is most likely due to the strong freedom advocacy offered by freedom fighting organizations like the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), Public Knowledge (PK), and KEI (Knowledge Ecology International).

Twitter tightens its grip

Ironically, today readwriteweb brings word about Twitter’s decision to cut out 3rd party developers. Existing apps will be allowed to continue… on probabation. Last week my favorite writing live chat on Twitter didn’t work because none of the various third party apps people use to make live chat work could log in. Some of the regular participants gave it up because Twitter does not lend itself to live chat. In the light of this new announcement, the chat problem probably resulted from changes made to the Twitter api to discourage 3rd party apps.

My personal recommendation is that no step is to small to be the first step into freedom.

If you use Twitter, set up an account on Identi.ca.

Setting up on Identi.ca is very much like setting up on Twitter, and you can link Identica to Twitter to stay in contact easily enough. Identi.ca will automatically send your notices and local “@” replies to Twitter, as well as subscribe to your Twitter friends on Identica. [Hint: it is best if you can use the same @name on both services.]

At least for now.

Twitter can pull the plug on that at any time. That is one of the biggest problems with proprietary web platforms… some one else owns it, controlling your access, as well as having access to all of your information. Proprietors like Facebook (or Darth Vader) retain total control, and can alter the rules in a flash.

identi.ca logo

identi.ca logo

Unlike Twitter, Identica is a service that makes up the central part of a growing federated network of microbloggers using the open source Statusnet software. Because the number of individual hostings of StatusNet is growing all the time, Identica far freer than Twitter in much the same way that a federated network of mirrors allowed WikiLeaks to survive the onslaught. You can set up your own, or connect to Identi.ca on their site or download the free version to use on your own. I strongly recommend that anyone concerned with net freedom should set up their microblog home on Identica.

personal security

For some excellent ideas on how to protect yourself, I recommend reading Identi.ca netizen @jimmorgan’s blog about his foray into security: Tor, XMPP, GPG, Internet security

copyright

Copyright is another incredibly important issue, particularly as the copyright maximalists are pushing for laws that allow copyright to be used as a tool of censorship. For some insight in why this is a problem in the here and now, I highly recommend watching the important film RiP: A Remix Manifesto I have much more to say about copyright, but the main thing is that it is an issue that we need to rethink. Allowing corporations to impose laws about how we access our own culture is both disturbing and detrimental to the common good.

freedom

I have been compiling lists of free culture and Creative Commons options available in the sidebar as I come to them. If you find any such links that you’d like to share, please forward them to me. Allowing corporations to control our freedom may in fact be worse than allowing governments to do so. Big Brother may in fact be wearing mouse ears. We must stand up for our rights, and encourage others to do the same.

We all must do whatever we can to fight for our online rights.

[and now back to editing/proofing my novel]

Humble Bundle gift card

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Like many people I’ve decided to give some video games for Christmas presents this year.

But the games I’m giving are the “Humble Bundle #2” which supports DRM free software made by Independent Video Game companies and the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

The only thing is, I prefer to have gifts in nice packages, so I’ve put together a gift certificate.
Since I’ve done the work already, I thought I’d share the card graphics, so anyone else who is supporting the Humble Indie Bundle is welcome to print the card too. (cc by-nc-sa)

This can be printed as the gift card front:

HUMBLE BUNDLE card front (CC by-nc-sa laurelrusswurm)

This would be the interior bit, or you can just print this on a 4″ x 6″ card as a gift certificate. All you need to do is fill in the Gift URL and you’ve got a lovely package for your Humble Indie Bundle game download code.

HUMBLE BUNDLE gift certificate cc by-nc-sa laurelrusswurm

The Humble Indie Bundle is a time limited offer, only available for a few more days.

Check the http://www.humblebundle.com/ site for more details.

Happy Holidays!

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

December 22, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Nomination for a Posthumus EFF Pioneer

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EFF Pioneer Awards

The EFF is looking for nominations for Pioneer Awards which will recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. I don’t know if they will make posthumous awards or not, but if they do, I hope they’ll consider my nomination for:

Martin Bosworth

Martin Boswell Identi.ca avatar image

@martinboz

The very first time I saw the Electronic Frontier Foundation blue ribbon badge was on Martin Bosworth’s boztopia website (and it’s been on mine ever since). I stumbled upon Martin accidentally when I was trying to learn about usage based billing (what you call metered broadband) and just beginning to learn about internet freedom, net neutrality etc. He patiently explained things to me, a total stranger, a noob from a different country.

He wrote an article (which may or may not be lost forever since his ISP started shutting his site down before his grieving family realized it was happening) about the “digital divide.” Martin explained how metered broadband will make the gap between rich and poor even worse. Utility companies have begun to provide economic incentives to customers who pay bills online, which leaves those who can’t even afford to be online paying larger bills and being even worse off.

Martin was the 7th person I subscribed to on the Identi.ca microblogging service. Although I never met Martin in person, he certainly made an impression on me, and I believe a great many others as well. I was shocked and saddened to learn of his untimely passing at the age of 35.

I believe Martin Bosworth was both a humanitarian and an internet freedom fighter who worked hard to promote positive technical, social, economic, or cultural aspects of the Internet and the world, which is why I’m nominating him for a Pioneer Award.

Some of Martin’s digital legacy can still be found online here:
http://boztopia.livejournal.com/
http://identi.ca/martinboz

Free Culture, Copyright and Open Video

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StopUBB logoUsually I deal with highly politicized computer issues in my StopUBB blog, which has evolved from only fighting against Canadian implementation of Usage Based Billing but has spread out to fight against insidious secret copyright treaties like A.C.T.A. while trying to educate ordinary people about the related issues of Net Neutrality and Internet Freedom.

Those who are attempting to subvert the Internet so they can control and leash it have long been using copyright as an excuse to do these things. I have been learning a lot about computer issues through StopUBB research. But there are many people who have been grappling with the future of the Internet long before I had a clue that there were even issues.

One of these people is Lawrence Lessig a big proponent of “Free Culture” and reduced copyright. Not only was Lessig one of the a founder of Creative Commons licensing movement, he was also involved in the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Harvard‘s Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Lawrence Lessig delivering a lecture

Copyright symbol with maple leaf

in the wind is my personal blog. Since I’m a writer a big part of my life is writing, so when I write about any aspect of writing it goes here. So even though copyright plays an important part in StopUBB issues, this is where I write about it from a reader and writer’s point of view.

twitter logo

Yesterday I learned from Twitter that there was going to be a LIVE! Wireside Chat with Lawrence Lessig at Harvard Law School I played hooky from writing Inconstant Moon to tune in, although I only caught the last part of his lecture, the main thrust was that the bad guys can look after themselves, its time that the good guys (that’s you and me, pal) stepped up to the plate to stop corruption and make government start working for the people again.

After the lecture there was a question and answer session with questions provided in a live Twitter feed which dealt with culture, copyright and ReMix.

These are some of the Lessig quotes tweeted by audience
which in itself made the lecture into a remix:
shapah “we need a culture that makes it as easy to hack hardware as it does content” #wireside #lessig

PPirataMx Necesitamos una cultura que permita “hackear” dispositivos de la misma forma que se “hackea” el contenido. #lessig #wireside

EveBottando “There’s something tone deaf about Apple. Their sharing site is Me.com..whatdyamean Me.com – it should be We.com.” #wireside

shapah Brazil again! points of light – “they teach kids to tear machines down and rebuild them” #wireside

ericschnell RT @sameerverma: “Stallman was right to call it free software” – lessig #wireside

ezufelt #wireside chat w/ @lessig was good, disappointing that it was not captioned and that videos were not described. #accessibility

shapah non-commercial CC licensing is an experiment to enable this new way of thinking #wireside #lessig

shapah “free culture is the right way to think about – setting the right boundaries, setting the widest spread” #wireside

EveBottando “Britney Spears model – produce and control culture…another culture that doesn’t limit…depends on building and sharing freely” #wireside

blogdiva RT @dsearls: @Lessig: “The government has produced the least efficient property system known to man.” At #wireside

shapah “how long do copyright terms need to be?” 21 years? #lessig would settle for 50 as long as it couldn’t be extended #wireside

moon Larry #Lessig “never should you be allowed to extend an existing copyright” #wireside

After the Q&A concluded, I learned a bit about the The Open Video Alliance, the group who put on this lecture. Of course, my learning curve in all this is enormous; today is the first time that I had even heard of them. Open Video held a contest for 60 second films to explain and illustrate the idea of open video to raise awareness of the importance of this cultural art form. They screened the winning videos, but this one was my favorite.

Teacher Raffaella Traniello holds up some movie making tools
Raffaella Traniello is an excellent teacher.   With simplicity and breathtaking clarity her video makes the point:

EVERYTHING IS A REMIX

 

You can find the other open video submissions available for download at http://contest.openvideoalliance.org/?l=en

Visit the site and check out the films online. You are free to download them in a variety of formats from OGG to MPEG4.   Raffaella’s film is in Italian but there are English subtitles available– the words are important– for mono-lingual anglophones like myself.

I could not figure out how to embed the Raffaella’s Traniello video here, so I took a peek at YouTube to see if it was there. I didn’t find it, instead I found this interview. Although I don’t speak a word of Italian, I loved the opportunity to see some of the films this amazing teacher has made with her students. You go girl.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cc2WX06Ovzc

It seems that videos posted on YouTube can be easily embedded here in my WordPress blog, but videos found in other places, like The Open Video Alliance and the Canada’s NFB (National Film Board of Canada) can not be posted here, even though it would not violate any copyright laws to do so.

As if by magic my friend Malcolm sent me a link to this amazing live interactive ReMix:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EYAUazLI9k&annotation_id=annotation_72265&feature=iv

I am curious now as to whether license fees were paid to use the music in this performance art.

I think it was Lawrence Lessig who suggested that copyright law needs to be straightforward enough that children can use any cultural material they are exposed to in any way with impunity.

Unfortunately what is happening today is the heavy handed application if new IP laws that serve to frighten many educators and schools away from using these technologies to help educate our children. After all, this is a world of D.M.C.A. takedowns and A.C.T.A.

And that’s not right.



Canadian Copyright is a Canadian Affair

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Copyright symbol with maple leafIt seems that the pressure by the American copyright lobby to dictate Canadian Copyright law is again mounting.   Of course I’ve been trying to work on my novel and so didn’t realize this was happening.

My first inkling was a Michael Geist tweet:

michaelgeist EFF & PK warn against using USTR Special 301 process to sanction countries for not implementing ACTA http://bit.ly/cBtQvV

Nutshell: The United States Trade Representative (USTR) creates a “watch list” of countries who fail to provide “adequate and effective” protection of intellectual property rights or denial of “fair and equitable market access to U.S. persons who rely on intellectual property protection.”

The idea is that if you don’t play nice with American IP, all the other countries hear about it.

Apparently the very powerful American Copyright Lobby has a history of applying pressure to the USTR to include countries based on allegations rather than any proof, in an attempt to coerce countries like Canada to make or laws beneficial to these American corporations.

Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation submitted a joint comment to the USTR Consultation outlining many instances of the misapplication of these sanctions.

The American Trade Act defines “adequate and effective protection” as the refusal of the country to provide means under its laws for foreign nationals to exercise and enforce their IP rights.

It considers a country to have denied market access if its laws or regulations violate provisions of international agreements to which both the U.S. and that foreign country are parties or if the law or regulation constitutes a discriminatory non-tariff barrier.   Thus, a country should be considered to provide adequate and effective IP protection and fair and equitable market access for these purposes if it complies with its existing international obligations and provides foreign rights-holders with a means under its domestic law to enforce their rights or seek access to its markets.

Failure to sign international agreements does not per se mean the country has failed to provide adequate and effective protection for U.S. rights-holders’ intellectual property.   This is also consistent with the principle of national sovereignty, a foundational principle of the modern world order, which recognizes a country’s freedom to choose international instruments to which it will be bound.”

— COMMENTS of PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE and the
ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION
in the Matter of 2010 Special 301 Review:
Identification of Countries Under Section 182 of The Trade Act of 1974
http://bit.ly/cBtQvV

Reading through the PK and EFF comments all I can say is that I for one am very glad that they are out there working to protect the internet for all.

Michael Geist has often said that Canada already has very tough Intellectual Property law, and IP lawyer Howard Knopf tells us exactly why in his Excess Copyright blog post The “Annual 310 Show” – USTR Calls for Comment – 21 Reasons why Canadian Copyright Law is Already Stronger than U.S.A.’s

I made use of PK’s handy online form to submit my comments as a private Canadian citizen, and although it was a tad past the deadline, it was accepted. I thought it particularly important since our own Canadian Government elected not to make a submission.

I realize that our legislature is currently prorogued, but that isn’t slowing down Canadian participation in the ultra-secret A.C.T.A. trade negotiation. In fact, if Canada is singled out here by the USTR it would simply provide more leverage to coerce Canada into signing the A.C.T.A. agreement, no matter how dreadful.

RE: 2010 Special 301 Review
Docket Number USTR-2010-0003

Jennifer Choe Groves
Senior Director for Intellectual Property and
Innovation and Chair of the Special 301 Committee
Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20508
Filed electronically via Regulations.gov

Dear Ms. Groves:

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) must not allow rights holders to use this proceeding to force sovereign nations to impose overzealous restrictions on their citizens and interfere with our civil liberties or diminish our global standing.

Whatever happened to the American spirit of liberty, and vaunted dedication to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

The USTR must recognize the importance of balanced intellectual property law to innovation and free expression. The provision for innovation and free expression is necessary for culture to exist.

The USTR must demand rights holders support claims of infringement and loss with verifiable data following standards of proof and the rule of law.

Unsubstantiated accusations can be made in error, or just as easily made spuriously by entities who are not even the rights holders as a means of suppressing free speech.

The United States will lose global credibility by continuing ton this slippery slope.

The United States does not have the right to dictate Canada’s specific structure of domestic laws. Your rights holders’ demands for increasing criminal penalties, prison terms, fines, and liability have no place here as we have the sovereign right to determine our own limitations and exceptions to copyright.

Canadian Copyright law is robust, in many ways stronger than your own as explained in esteemed Canadian Intellectual Property lawyer Howard Knopf’s blog: http://excesscopyright.blogspot.com/2010/02/annual-301-parade-ustr-calls-for.html

As a Canadian Citizen and a writer I hope the USTR follows the law not the lobbyists.

Regards,
Laurel L. Russwurm

canadian flag

a sovereign nation

American Flag

follow the laws not the lobbyists

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